Permanent Mooring

The best houses set a scene for the way a family intends to live, whether it be along the Gulf of Mexico or atop Red Mountain. Accordingly, Alabama architect Gary Justiss has masterfully conceived and executed a house that reflects his client’s desire for a stately presence on a site overlooking Lake Marilyn in Alys Beach.  

Although Gary has designed scores of vacation retreats along 30A, this six-bedroom home posed new challenges and opportunities. The large lot with multiple walking pathways allows the house to turn a corner, creating an assemblage of distinct courtyards as well as a formal entertaining wing. The pièce de résistance of the composition is an octagonal pavilion that stands along the water apart from the main house. The geometry of the structure with its setbacks on the second floor gives the illusion of a graceful little wedding cake. Crowning the octagon is a private office accessible only by an open-air terrace off the second-floor master suite. “It’s the owner’s own personal ‘man cave’ in the sky, ” laughs Gary.

ABOVE AND BELOW The family wing of the house features an open kitchen and living area. A tufted upholstered bench and comfortable chairs surround an antique farm table in the breakfast dining area.

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Interiors in keeping with the refined architecture are the handiwork of the talented Dale Trice. “The owners are knowledgeable and well-traveled, and they knew what they wanted, ” recalls Dale. “We took our time and worked together, and the design evolved to meet the needs of a family with four young children.” The scheme covers the gamut from a full basement outfitted for the children to the parents’ own ever-so-elegant living room. 


Tall arched windows and an ornate built-in accentuate the eight walls of the octagonal pavilion.

Throughout the entire home, Dale opted for a medley of antiques, contemporary pieces, and fabrics ranging from linens and cottons to velvet and silk. Splashes of lush red in the master suite and vivid turquoise in the living room instill an unexpected buoyancy. Materials, including recycled cypress beams and Alabama marble, are meticulously detailed to define the house as a truly handmade object. Outdoor rooms and hidden spaces tucked amid the architecture are equally engaging, including an entertaining dining court and an intimate conversation area focused on a raised stone fireplace.

From every vantage point, the refinement of the home’s architecture shines through in a carefully orchestrated sequence that seems to continuously unfold.

The master suite provides an unexpected punch of color among the mostly neutral decor in the home. RIGHT: The home’s outdoor dining area includes a cozy alcove to create the perfect spot for hosting smaller parties.


architect:  Gary Justiss, Gary Justiss Architect Chelsea, Alabama • 205.541.8597 •  interior design: Dale Trice, Amy Wiard, Design Services of Florida Seagrove, Florida • 850.231.6842  • contractor: Alys Beach Homebuilding •


As warmer weather approaches, Alys Beach is awash with activity in residential neighborhoods and the Town Center.  Here’s a sampling:

• Promising to make a big splash with children this season is a fanciful interactive fountain.
• Fonville Press offers a spot to start the day with a cup of coffee on the shaded veranda.
• Next door to the popular restaurant George’s is The Alys Bike Shop, offering  kayaks, paddleboards, and bicycles for rent. The Alys Shoppe,   a signature upscale boutique featuring designer ladies apparel; select home décor merchandise; and keepsake souvenirs, is scheduled to open in the summer.       
• Alys Beach has quickly become a favorite 30A destination with nearly two dozen homes available as vacation rentals.
• Both residential construction and civic improvements are enhancing Alys Beach. Sea Garden Walk, the town’s main pedestrian axis running from Lake Marilyn to 30A, will soon extend to Sea Garden Street along the Gulf.  The completion of Turtle Bale Park is another gracious landscaped green south of 30A that allows even more access to the beach.

Text by Lynn Nesmith • Photography by Jack Gardner

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